Americans bought estimated 21 million guns in 2020 amid culture of ‘panic’

·3 min read
<p>Bryan Oberc, Munster, Ind, tries out an AR-15 from Sig Sauer in the exhibition hall at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Indianapolis</p> (AP)

Bryan Oberc, Munster, Ind, tries out an AR-15 from Sig Sauer in the exhibition hall at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting in Indianapolis

(AP)

New data revealed that Americans have bought an estimated 21 million guns so far in 2020 as an unprecedented political and social climate sends gun retail rocketing.

ABC News reports the figures from an FBI background check by The Trace, noting they mark a 73 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The surge comes as the nation faced a year of unprecedented social and political unrest in the form of the coronavirus pandemic, economic recession, civil unrest, and a divisive presidential election.

"When Covid initially hit the streets in the United States of America, business really started to take off," said Brandon Wexler, owner of Wex Gunworks in Delray Beach, Florida told the outlet.

"Almost, as far as an analogy, [like] prepping for a hurricane in South Florida."

Gun policy has long been a contentious issue across the US, and continued political division across the country has seemingly only deepened fractures and stoked residents’ fears.

“I've never owned a gun. I've never wanted a gun. I've never had a gun in my home,” recent first-time gun owner and Florida mother of three Trish Beaudet told ABC News.

"It really bothers me when I watched things on the news, when you talk about the riots, and the looting, and the violence that's happening," Ms Beaudet said.

"Pulling a gun is the last thing I ever want to do, but I want to know that if I need to protect myself, my family, my, you know, my children, that I can do that."

Across the year, the US saw 42,067 gun deaths as of 21 December, with 38,327 people injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Efforts in recent years to halt gun violence through intensified gun-control measures have faced significant roadblocks due to the polarising nature of the discussion on both sides.

The issue has also been forced to take a backseat during this year's election alongside other high-profile policy as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden has vowed sweeping new restrictions on guns as soon as he takes office on 20 January, a move some experts say has only driven sales higher.

"I don't know what these laws will be passed, but that's got people [thinking] to 'buy my gun now or I'm not going to be able to get it again,'" Robert Boyce, a retired NYPD chief of detectives told ABC News.

Mr Biden’s agenda on gun control calls for a renewed ban on AR-style rifles, universal background checks, restrictions on high-capacity magazines, and a federal red-flag law designed to prevent people at risk of harming themselves or others from purchasing a firearm.

"It is generally true that when we have a president coming from the Democratic Party that we see higher firearms demand, and associated sales are primarily stimulated by the fear that there may be federal legislation pushed through," Jurgen Brauer, chief economist at Small Arms Analytics, a nonpartisan research group, told the broadcaster.

Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center, described the reaction as an illustration of "panic” which he said is being fuelled by the gun industry, and the National Rifle Association, and the Trump administration.

Bria Smith, a student leader with March for Our Lives, a movement calling for action on gun violence in the wake of the Parkland shooting in 2018, said she believed gun culture has been “romanticised” in the country.

"I mean, we had our president willingly say on a public debate stage to the [Proud Boys to 'stand by and stand back,'" she said.

"When you look at the bigger picture, it's making sure that you have an administration that cares for you set in place first."

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